I’ve had a hard time sitting down to write a blog this year, I’ve written many and deleted them all due to sounding like I was feeling sorry for myself. I started off the year training well but picked up an inhibiting neck injury which prevented me from pushing myself on the rock, I found this very frustrating when Alex and I headed to Rodellar as there were a number of days I couldn’t climb, luckily it’s a stunning place to be and Alex tried to teach me how to juggle, we played frisbee and generally chilled out and had a holiday.
When I got back to the UK I decided to visit an Osteopath called Belinda Rae who has been absolutely amazing and is helping me get past my niggles, however I have also been doing my best to hinder her by having car crashes!
I also had one of my worst climbing experiences ever when I headed to Pabbay and Mingulay; it was no one else’s doing but my own. The group I headed out with were amazing and the location was idyllic but my head was just not in the right place for climbing and it was crazy how much it affected my climbing. I seconded Alex up an E4 5c on Mingualy called Ray of Light (which should have been an enjoyable experience, albeit the traverse pitch was slightly wet), needless to say I think I cried my way up most of the route on second and didn’t enjoy the climbing. At the time I was embarrassed and felt incredibly down about the whole experience. I didn’t have many positive feelings to take away from the last few months.
Over the last couple of months I have realised more than ever that whilst it is important to have a good group of people to climb with the only person that can make a change is yourself. So I set about doing this in every aspect of my life as well as climbing; the change in attitude made a big difference almost immediately. I was having fun climbing again but without pushing myself hard unless I wanted to or felt ready to. This culminated in a flash of Yukan 2 E6/7 6b at Nesscliff, this route is so good and I’d love to do more at Nesscliff. I found this route really suited my style in that it was quite technical but you could also slip off at any point. The most inspiring part of the day was watching Alex Mason fight his way up this route second go with some incredible power screams; it made me feel like I wasn’t trying hard enough and I wanted to be giving it my all on a route.
A few weeks later I headed up to the Lakes with Caff getting prepared to be scared on some classic sandbag routes. One route he’d suggested for the start of the trip was an E7 on Dove Crag in the Lakes called Dusk til Dawn – nothing like a gentle warm up into the week.
I was keen to head back to Dove Crag as the last time I had been there was 11/12 years ago with Caff; at the time I had found this crag incredibly pumpy and intimidating with some steep trad climbing. I also got sandbagged by Caff telling me that the walk in was only 20 minutes, this time I was more prepared for the hour to hour and a half walk in.
We warmed up on a tasty E5 6b called Outside Edge and then Caff decided to ‘man up’ for the main event. Dusk til Dawn starts up another E7 called Bucket Dynasty (this route used to be given E6) which is known to be pretty fierce in its own right, this was proven to be true when Caff did not breeze up the start. It’s one of the few times I have seen Caff pumped and he made the decision to just do Bucket Dynasty first time up which was a fine onsight effort in its own right. I was keen but also apprehensive to try and flash this route placing the gear, I’d just seen Caff struggle and get pumped so I was there thinking that I could maybe do the route but if Caff had got pumped was I good enough to do the route?
The start did not go smoothly and I was up and down a couple of times before committing to the crux due to the fall being a bit more spicy than I would have liked but when I did commit it all came together, a moment of being in the zone until my leg started to shake placing the gear. One more move and I would be on jugs and into safe gear haven, but then it gets hard again. A little sting in the tail of this route which was burly almost saw me off, I don’t really know how I stayed on but I was fighting hard and enjoying that feeling of wanting to do a route badly. I was psyched to say the least when I got to the top of this route and for me that was the day done, for Caff he decided to have a look again at doing Dusk til Dawn now he knew the start of the route and with usual Caff prowess he dispatched another E7 onsight.
The rest of the week was a blast with a one day hit to Malham in the blazing sunshine and a first visit to Scafell. The hike up wasn’t as bad as I was expecting and we climbed a classic E3 called Nazgul in the evening to top off the day. The next morning we were up at 6 (thanks Caff) to go and climb the mega E4 Lost Horizons and have a look at another E7 called Borderline. I think Lost Horizons has to be one of the most stunning pitches of E4 6b climbing that I have ever done, the gear is good and the climbing is sustained. Like an idiot I did try to make it into 6c climbing by exiting onto the arete too early and nearly coming off as everything was slopey and out of balance, luckily I managed to reverse it just in time and decided to go the 6b way.
It was time for borderline and Caff set off up first getting to the crux placing the gear and trying to figure out the sequence which wasn’t chalked or obvious, in the end he climbed back down and passed the ropes to me. I was still on a high from earlier in the week so I thought I’d have a look, I got to the crux but was having the same problem as Caff in that the sun kept peeking out. I unlocked a sequence but couldn’t quite get into the good crimp which was extremely frustrating so in the end I backed off and climbed back down. It was Caff’s turn again but this time he had my new sequence for the crux (I think that means I get half the credit) and he made it through only to fall higher up – close but no cigar. He worked out the higher moves he’d come off and then came back down to have a rest. Second time up he got it but still had to work hard, unfortunately I let him down on second by not being able to do the crux but also feeling satisfied that I’d made the right decision on lead. Maybe it was due to being tired by this point or maybe I needed to figure out a better sequence for myself in the end I had to be lowered off as I had swung into the midair of no mans land with this route being deceptively steep. With the climbing done we walked back down with my Dad and headed to Langdale for the fun Raven’s Pit event that had been organised by Claire Carter which involved some good Cumbrian Tales, a local band, good food and a bit too much wine plus walking into a fence.
The next morning the hangover had definitely kicked in and there were a few people milling about looking less than fresh. My parents had rocked up so I tried to put on a bright smile and failed miserably. The walk up to Pavey was gruelling and whilst Caff chilled out I climbed a classic E1 called Capella with my Dad and another guy. The hangover and other mishaps put paid to our plan of climbing Sixpence but as far as trips go this is one of the best I have ever had.
I know this is the part of my blog that most people will jump to and I’ve found it hard to write down my thoughts about the route as it has finally sunk in that I climbed it. This year it was one of my main goals to retry this route and get it done if I was good enough. I quickly realised that this would be achievable if I put my mind and some time to it but my visits were still pretty sporadic until the week I did it.
A week before I did the route I made it through the crux for the first time from the ground since I’d started trying it, this was a big mental breakthrough for me as I found the crux really hard. Not only did I make it through once I then made it through another two times but was falling high on the headwall due to having focused my attention on the crux and I was getting overexcited. I decided to head back up as soon as I could whilst everything was still fresh, on the Sunday morning I didn’t want to get out of bed. It was raining outside and everyone else was all snuggled up cosy and warm. I dragged myself up and got in my van to drive to Malham in the pouring rain; it took an immense amount of psych to persevere on, at Chester I almost called it quits and turned back. The rubbish weather did take the pressure off, after arriving and warming up I thought I had nothing to lose by giving it my best shot. I was psyched up and ready to go after seeing Toby put in an impressive first effort of the day getting high on the groove. I tied on not sure if this would be the go but hoping that I would get through the crux again to give myself a fighting chance.
I didn’t climb the start very well (at least not in my mind) but it was good enough to feel fresh once I hit the start of the crux. It’s funny when your redpointing because something that initially felt desperate and impossible becomes easy and you climb almost in a trance, the crux now felt easy on redpoint and I was through again this time determined not to mess up on the headwall. The move I had to fight the most on was hitting the pockets, I wasn’t really pumped but my fingers were starting to get a bit cold so I had to throw a bit more than I would have liked to. It was important to me to have to dig deep and really commit as too often I give up due to it not being perfect. Once I was in the pockets I knew I could do the route but I also had to stay focused as in true Malham style everything is still pretty sketchy. When I clipped the chains I couldn’t believe I’d done the route; after pouring my heart and soul into trying it I was so happy to have done the route but a slightly masochistic part of me was also going to miss trying the route.
I’m not going to give the route a grade, to me it felt like the hardest thing I have ever been on and done, I don’t hold the experience to pass comment on something that is subjective at best. I had to work hard to figure out the moves and do this route, the crux for me had to be nothing less than perfect due to the burly nature and being spanned out between the holds. Whilst it felt easy on redpoint I have to remind myself of the amount of work it took me to do the route and how the moves initially felt, I didn’t get the crux moves figured out the first time I went up the route and it was only through hard work, stubborness and determination that I won the battle with this route but I enjoyed every minute of the process this year.
As is always the case its onto the next project now and time to start planning some trips. I’m psyched to see how far I can push myself but also to have some fun. I would like to thank Rab for taking me on as one of their new athletes and also give a shout out to some friends (Will and Becky) for giving me some cosy Bob Hats – if you haven’t got one then order one now to keep your head snuggly and warm in the winter.
I hope everyone has had a fun summer on the crags and my next blog will be coming soon on DWS and facing fears.